I have gotten to the point at holiday time where I enjoy the time with family and food; opening presents is much less of an attraction. Yet if I am pressed for an idea outside of a gift card, I still think the gift of knowledge is the best gift anyone can give or receive. Back in February, I shared some financial books that everyone should read, so I would say those four are a good starting place if you're looking for gift ideas.
With that in mind, here are some books I have read over the last year that I would recommend (some financial, and some not).
The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money. I featured this book in my Four Great Retirement Reads blog last February, but I wanted to mention it again. Carl Richards is a practicing financial advisor who has a penchant for illustrating people's (often irrational) relationship with money in simple drawings. If you read only one financial book next year, I would make it this one.
The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better. Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics (in case you couldn't tell from the title). His book is short, but he expounds on how some of the greatest innovations take advantage of low-hanging fruit. In the long run, however, and counter-intuitively, these innovations do not necessarily bring as much prosperity as we might think. Take the Internet: It revolutionized how we do business but in the long run companies can get more done with fewer jobs. This is not the be-all, end-all on a subject this broad, but it is a great primer to get you thinking about how to find the low-hanging fruit in our future.
"If you're a runner, you'll enjoy Born to Run, a fantastic story about Mexico's Tarahumara Indians." [Tweet this]
Get a Grip: An Entrepreneurial Fable. In his first book, Traction, Gino Wickman produced a how-to manual on improving the six key areas of every business. Now he has teamed up with Mike Paton, another implementer of the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS) strategy, to write Get a Grip. Both books describe the EOS process, but Traction is more of a manual, while Get a Grip is a business fable with characters and situations taken from years of the authors' consulting experience. For those who learn better by storytelling, it will provide information you can use in your company immediately.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Laura Hillenbrand has a good track record, as she is the author of Seabiscuit. Unbroken is a biography of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who turned out to be a World War II hero as well. As the sub-title suggests, it is a riveting story of survival and resilience, something we all need to be reminded of when we think we are having a bad day. I found it hard to put down.
Born to Run. If you are a runner, you'll enjoy Christopher McDougall's fantastic story about the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico and how they have become super-athletes. It made me feel like going out and doing, oh, I don't know, maybe a 50-mile run on a Saturday morning. Of course, I would never do it, but for runners this book is quite uplifting.
That's Why I'm Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story. I lost my father to cancer, so this book, written by Chris Spielman after the death of his wife Stefanie, hit home. For the sports enthusiast, Chris was a Pro-Bowl linebacker in the NFL when Stefanie found out she had breast cancer. He quit playing to take care of her, and discovered that life was about more than football. It is a great story from the side of the caregiver.
Out of My League. This is another book for the sports enthusiast. Dirk Hayhurst played minor-league baseball and had the dream of getting to the majors. When it finally happened, the harsh reality of getting there versus staying there caused him to re-evaluate his goal. This true story is a great metaphor for all of us since often we focus so much energy on getting to a goal (like retirement) that we may forget what we will do once we achieve it, which leads to disappointment.
One More Bonus Read
Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. I have to admit, I have not yet read this book. But it is next on my list (as soon as I am done with Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals). I was at a conference a few weeks ago where one of the authors, Peter H. Diamandis (the second author is Steven Kotler), shared how technological growth will better our lives. Mr. Diamandis, if you remember, was the guy who came up with the X Prize. In 2004, he offered to give $10 million to the first team of people who could launch a spacecraft 100 kilometers above the earth's surface twice within two weeks. His message was much more uplifting and contrary to what we are hearing about our world today, so I look forward to reading this.
These are just some of the books I have enjoyed in 2012. My mother usually gets me a book for Christmas, so if you have any great recommendations (non-fiction is all I read), send them my way.
The opinion of the author is subject to change without notice and must be considered in conjunction with relevant regulation, as well as subsequent changes in the marketplace. Any information from outside resources has been deemed to be reliable but has not necessarily been verified. Each individual has unique circumstances to which this information may or may not be relevant. Under no circumstances will this information constitute an offer to buy or sell and it does not indicate strategy suitability for any particular investor.